Court Discusses Collateral Source Rule in Florida Negligence Cases

When a person files a lawsuit seeking compensation following an injury, the cost of the medical care needed to treat the injury is an element of the individual’s damages. What should be considered in calculating past medical expenses was often disputed in the Florida courts until a recent ruling on the issue in a slip and fall accident case. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be owed damages, including the cost of medical care, and should meet with a knowledgeable Florida premises liability attorney to discuss your possible claims.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff was a passenger on a cruise ship when she tripped and fell over a bucket in a dining room. She suffered severe shoulder injuries for which she underwent significant treatment. She then filed a lawsuit against the cruise ship company asserting a negligence claim. Following a trial, a jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her in excess of one million dollars in damages. The trial court reduced the plaintiff’s medical damages to the amount actually paid by her insurers. The parties filed cross-appeals, with the plaintiff arguing that the district court erred in reducing the compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff for past medical expenses from the amount the jury found to be reasonable.

Calculating Past Medical Expenses

On appeal, the court stated that the issue of how to calculate damages for past medical expenses in a maritime tort action in cases in which there is a dramatic disparity between the amount a provider bills for care and the amount an insurer pays was a matter of first impression for the court. The court noted, however, that courts throughout the Southern District of Florida disagreed as to how such expenses should be calculated.

The court ultimately stated that it was adopting the rule that best reflected the idiosyncrasies of the healthcare field and avoided reliance on arbitrary factors that did not relate to the harm suffered by the plaintiff. Further, the court stated that its ruling permitted juries to exercise their duty to resolve difficult factual disputes. In sum, the court found that the appropriate measure of medical damages in a personal injury case under maritime law is what a jury deems their reasonable value to be, after considering any relevant evidence.

In other words, the court found that both the amount billed and the amount paid by insurers was relevant and admissible on the issue of calculating medical damages. As the trial court reduced the jury’s award of medical damages to the amount actually paid by the plaintiff’s insurer’s, the appellate court found the ruling to be erroneous. Thus, it was reversed.

Speak to an Experienced Florida Attorney

Past medical expenses are often a significant portion of the damages awarded in slip and fall cases, and it is important that they are accurately calculated. If you suffered injuries in a fall caused by negligence, the experienced Florida premises liability attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can advise you of your rights and assist you in seeking the full amount of compensation recoverable under the law. You can contact us through our form online or by calling 800-283-7442 to schedule a conference.

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